Bread.

Today is the 26th of October, 2017. Nine years ago today, sometime after midnight, ‘she’ had ceased to be. ‘Us’ was the only existence she knew since then.  Even now, when he no longer wanted any part of that.

She smiles through the pain at her memories. They were all she had. She held them close. They would always be hers, after all.

One of her most precious memories happened when they were in Sweden together. It was four years ago. As blessed as they were to be able to do an exchange scholarship together, they had had some of their worst fights in Sweden. They were all about the other woman. This was just a few months into her finding out. She was prone to angry outbursts, sobbing late into the night, hating him and loving him all at once. They fought for their love every day. He was determined to make up for what he did. Still, she was hurting, filled with doubts. About his love. About their future.

It was the end of April, the beginning of summer in Scandinavia. She had always wanted to check out the lake. And he was devoted to doing all he could to make her happy. So here they were, barbecuing. They were a long bus ride away from their dorm. But the setting was worth the hike, exactly as she had imagined it would be. It was a beautiful day. The lake was flanked by woods on all sides. There were barbecue tables set up in a clearing at the lake front. A group of music majors from the University were playing their violins nearby, as if they were a part of the forest.  Children were running around, screaming in glee. Retired couples were walking the forest trails, hand in hand. He was cooking. She was chatting away, forgetting all their troubles for a few moments. It was idyllic. And then, they ran out of bread.

Not a problem. She had remembered seeing the local ICA store on their way to the lake. She told him she would be back in no time. She ventured out on foot, like a dutiful girlfriend. Now this was back when Google Maps was not really an everyday thing.  So naturally it took her a while to find the store. Once she was there, she took her time selecting the best bread for her man. Some things, she reasoned, she could still make sure were perfect. She paid for the bread and started walking back. By then of course, her phone had run out of charge. No big deal, she thought. She had barely been gone half an hour. As she walked back through the woods, she hummed a song to herself. She was almost there. And then, she saw him. He was…running.

He was running towards her. Through the crowd. Like a madman. People were watching him. The music majors had stopped playing. For a moment she was puzzled. Why was he running?

As he scooped her up into his arms, she suddenly knew why. To her utter disbelief, she  realized that this grown-ass man, who was so tough that most people would think their life choices over before saying a cross word to him, was worried sick for her. This man, who had always hated making a scene of any sort, was unabashedly declaring his vulnerability to the world. She was his priority. She was his weakness. SHE was the love of his life.

At that moment, all of her doubts vanished.

Her.

Her fingers rested on the keyboard, wondering where to start. She had started many times before, only to stop immediately through unbearable tears. Now she felt that uncontrollable urge to write again. To pour out her self. Her weary, ragged self. Two years. It had been two years since she last knew happiness. Since she had been carrying that heaviness in her heart, that knot in her chest that let her know she may burst into tears at any moment. She had been with S for seven, eight years? Until she left him for the first smooth talking soldier that came along. She always had a thing for soldiers. Those damn men in uniforms. There was something undeniably romantic about being a soldier’s girl. Those first few days she had felt jubilant, feminine, beautiful even. Like those delicate women in movies who waited for their men at war. She sighs. How foolish had she been!

It was barely a month before her jubilation paved way for an uneasiness. And then horror. She realized that the smooth talking soldier was mostly just that. And couldn’t compare to the man she had left behind. The man that she now realizes was home. She had thrown away almost a decade of love and friendship for her vanity. She had lost the love of her life.

It had felt like the absolute right thing to do at the time, she remembers wearily. She was so sure. Like an inevitable decision. Still, she remembers getting out of the house so she did not have to hide her agony from her mother who was visiting. She remembers walking to the park. There was no stopping the tears once she was there. Why was she crying if it was the right decision? Why did that not stop her in her tracks? Instead she had told the man who had done everything possible to make her happy, that she wanted a break. Over text. When it had been barely a week into a huge career setback for him. She had fucked him over when he was at rock bottom. She screwed her eyes shut trying to block out the memory.

She had pleaded with him and begged him since then to take her back. To no avail. He was beyond hurt. He said he had sworn off relationships, at least for the foreseeable future. Made sense. It was time to move on now, everyone said. She wanted to tell herself that she had accepted that it was over. But in her heart of hearts she knew she never could. She held out a glimmer of hope that he would show up at her door. Maybe this weekend?

She feels a flash of anger. It was one of those rare moments she remembered why she might have left him in the first place. She sighs. If infidelity were a person she would tell them to go fuck themselves.

They had been together almost five years when that woman destroyed her world. A. She din’t let herself remember the details for fear it would unravel her. Like she did at church today. One minute she was thinking the ‘exchange of peace’ was her favorite part of mass, the next tears were rolling out of her eyes. It baffled her. She struggled to wipe them away discreetly, her voice faltering on the hymn that she knew so well. She wonders how the woman must be doing now. She surely must have heard they broke up. Ugh. She felt weak again. Well. She was always weak. Her protected Catholic upbringing had not prepared her for the other women. It had not prepared her for the aftermath of  her man’s infidelity. She had struggled to get over it for three years.  She could not fathom how someone could do that to a person they love. Maybe she would be able to get over it if she did it herself. Jeez. She had been young and stupid. And a perfect fool for the next smooth-talking soldier that came her way.

She wipes her tears again now at her kitchen table trying to put in words the anguish that permeated every moment of her life. It had been a real roller coaster. She had felt empowered this morning. Maybe she din’t need a man after all! She had made herself coffee, watched the morning news, had a long shower before stepping out for mass. It was a cool fall day, slightly overcast – her favorite kind. Then she had looked up her clinic patients for the next day, deposited cash at the ATM and paid her bills. She had felt like a responsible adult. She had then settled down under the covers for a few hours of Netflix. She had been on the road for a month interviewing – she deserved rest, she reasoned. Before she knew it, night fell. Darkness crept into her room and her mind. She absently Facebook-ed his name again.

He wasn’t at all active on social media these days so she had to be satisfied with looking at his old posts. Something about him wanting milf’s back in 2012. Wtf. Yeah, they were still together then. Year six. The guys in their class were telling him something about him already having one. He retorts, “Which bloody idiot would not want more than one?” God. She thinks. Offensive to her on so many levels. She hates herself for still wanting his arms wrapped around her. She wants to confront him about the post. She decides against it. She gets up. She needs to get up. She should get out of the house. Maybe she would go out for groceries. Wait, she needs to get her laundry done first. She gets the washing machine going and then sits back down to write.